From Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire to Middle Eastern mandates
Understanding Britain’s 1918–20 moment in the Middle East
in Exiting war
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Despite the centenary’s increasing effect on the literature of the Middle Eastern theatre of the war, the transitional 1918–20 moment still struggles to fit into traditional chronologies of the First World War and the history of Middle Eastern mandates. This chapter seeks to unite these two overlapping areas of research, focusing on the crucial years that contributed to the shaping of the modern Middle East. When the partition of the Ottoman Empire scenario ultimately prevailed, the dream of a secure land link between Egypt and India was no longer a chimera. Nevertheless, this invaluable asset for British imperial strategy required a coherent if not unified Middle Eastern policy that had to combine British war commitments with their own interests. The period 1918–20 was precisely the time when most of the significant guidelines – territorial delimitations, (in)direct administration, ‘sharifian solution’ and air power – were initiated and debated. This chapter explores these policies in their infancy in order to understand the war-induced transformation of most of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire into mandates. Following the ‘Arab Awakening’, the emergence of self-determination principles and the birth of the League of Nations, Britain’s early attempt to administrate the conquered territories did not remain unchallenged. Whereas some of the local population were fighting in the war, others quickly defied the new ruler.

Exiting war

The British Empire and the 1918–20 moment


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